ALLKBA at Glick Park グリック公園

In our neighborhood there are public parks and streets which need flowers and trees, but the ground is so dry and hard – it has been left forgotten for so many years. KBNA is a not for profit organization that takes care of the flowers and plants at Glick Park and also the tree pits near the park that are part of the bicycle lane system.


One of the activities our group supported was posted in this blog, we proposed a service roadway to become a real public amenity, street cafes , seating a kids play area and an event space where local musicians can mingle with residents.  The streets should become more lively and active, unfortunately our proposal was  denied by people who live in the adjacent property. It should have benefited them but they were not convinced.






Our targets are any kind of park/garden and streets which will contribute to making urban living better and enhance community life. 私たちの活動の目的は、どんな公園でも構わず、地域コミュニティーを活性化して、より良い生活の助けになるようにすること。




One of them is this ….. park, with it’s fantastic view of the East River, a full panorama although the park is not well recognized . We want to make this park more beautiful and popular. Today we planted flowers and shrubs  and our next task is to keep them watered.


The neighbors who believe this park will make the community better got together to take care of the garden. They came from many different backgrounds. An Estonian who  recently arrived noted that the medical system is terrible here, a Chinese family and so on. What made them to come to join this activity? Look at their kids full of curiosity and having fun. Their contribution is so great. Why not more kids? Why not more adults?


They came from many different backgrounds—-old migrants and new immigrants. An Estonian who recently arrived is working hard complaining that the medical system is terrible here. What made them to come to join this activity? Look at their kids full of curiosity and having fun. Their contribution is so great. Why not more kids? Why not more adults?.




Lamma Island ランマ島、香港

We are now in Hong Kong. We were here 10 years ago too. It has changed so much, Kowloon castle is gone, HSBC bank designed by Sir Norman Foster was the rare tall building and looked like it was predicting the future and soon Bank of China by IM Pei joined it, but now they are settled among the 100 tall anonymous buildings. Their facades still have a unique significance but did they demonstrate a model for the next generation?  We are not sure. Last time we were here we saw, I think, more people walking on the streets but today hardly to see people on the streets, possibly it is too hot and today is weekend. One difference is many shops and restaurants moved into high rises so that you can not see them from streets. You will find them through internet but not hanging around the city. This is the same phenomena we saw in Tokyo on the way here. Shops and restaurants are so sophisticated but the city sadly lost the face of activity. Remember how cities use to be… shops and restaurants were exposed on streets and joy of hanging around the city. I guess people prefer air conditioned space to explore the city.

今香港に来ている。10以上年前にも来たけれど大きく変わっている。九龍城はなくなり、ノーマンフォスター卿のデザインしたHSBC銀行は今はさらに高い沢山のビルの中に紛れてしまった。かつては周りの高層ビルのなかでひときわ目立つ、香港の未来を先取すると思われた建物で、そのあとIMペイのデザインした中国銀行のビルがそれに加わった。これらの建物のユニークで魅力的なファサードは、次世代のモデルになるだろうか?かなり疑わしい。さて、前回ここに来た時、もっと通りに人が歩いていたと思うけれど、今日はあまり人を見ない。週末だからだろうか? そのわけはレストランや商店が高層ビルの中に入っていったからではないだろうか?インターネットで調べてくるので、もうぶらぶら歩きをしなくなったのではないか?これと同じ傾向を東京でも見た。店やレストランは上品になって、大きなビルの中に他の店や事務所と一緒に納まり、表からは隠れてしまって、町は賑わいを失いつつあるのあるではないか?たぶん人々は町を散策するよりは冷房の効いたモールを好むようになったのかもしれない。

Today we came to an island called Lamma which is a 40 minute boat ride from the center of Hong Kong, one of many islands in that make up Hong Kong. Despite its image Hong Kong has hundreds of  islands and they are attracting more tourists.


After landing on the narrow walkway of the pier we walked up the main street that goes deep into the island through restaurants, shops, cafes and beaches and lovely clean public changing rooms. It is so nice and relaxing. Why is that…? It took a while to figure it out.


Yes, no cars!! Absolutely no cars on this island. Isn’t it a privilege not to have any cars and still be part of a city? In other words, does every community have to allow cars into every street and  be continuous to every other part of the city, giving up a sense of community? Why can’t individual parts of the city be like an island? Is it really so inconvenient? …


New York is considered the most functionally designed and most exciting city (a  simple straight grid and wide streets) in the world. In a grid system, every corner is equivalent (and almost the same) and exposed to heavy car traffic. For some people exhausting means exciting….  But is it really so ?


All of the photos above were taken along the small but main street. You can click all images to enlarge… for a more spatial experience. ここに載せた写真はすべてこの島のメインストリートたる細い道から取ったもの。クリックすれば臨場感のある大写しに…。

new ORIGAMI hat design at Easter Parade 新オリガミ帽デザインイースターパレードで

The Easter Parade came again this year. We have been creating new hat forms since we joined the parade in 2013. This year we experimented with a series of hats created from a single tube of origami. They are all composed of one sheet of paper (to be precise a tube). Six papers are combined to form a long tube, otherwise one long sheet of paper is cumbersome to handle. Precisely speaking, these final forms are not mathematically “origami”. Making a tube with origami is a precise mathematical process, however when it is bent to become a torus we are using the flexibility of paper. In other words, if the material is very hard it cannot be used to make these hats.


tube before folding. thin folding lines are printed. 折る前の筒、かすかに折れ線が印刷されている

Many people were attracted to these hats and constantly asked for permission to take photos. Some wanted their picture to be taken together with our models. They were amazed with the forms but strangely they didn’t ask any questions. Simply they don’t care how the hats are made? Or they are lost for words as they have not seen this design? Only a friend of ours asked questions to satisfy his curiosity.


I answered  “We don’t use any origami generating program software. We use Computer Aided Drawing software just to draw lines more precisely than hand drawing.”


“We fold for fun and for finding practical applications but also for transcendence through mathematics without equations and formulas.  If any computer program starts generating these forms automatically, I will quit origami.”


Please check different designs posted in the past. 過去のデザインもご覧あれ。

Hudson River Greenway ハドソン川自転車専用道

Several months ago five people were killed on the Hudson river green way, by a van that intentionally ran them down. We use the green way every week to commute to a project site, it’s a separated lane for bicyclists removed from the traffic and makes a great way to travel. Right after the murders every opening to the road was protected with concrete barricades for the full 10 km to prevent cars from invading into the green way pedestrian/bike lane. They are installed along the lane but the edges are painted with a florescent color to prevent bikers from running into them. We thought they were ugly because they disturb the smooth flow of bikes and are not appropriate for a “green” way running along the adjacent Hudson River Park.


These barricades oddly enough reminded me of  the train design of the British railway. The trains are yelling “watch out! I am not going to stop! never”  and the barricade is yelling ” watch out, I will never move”. The subjects are different but they share the orange nose and liner form along the direction of movement.  Additionally the barricade looks to have something like couplers. This maybe a good example of a theory in Bio-morphology—–a similar function builds a similar form even if they are not related at all.



Well, lets come back from this derailing….. what is the advantage of  installing this barricade here in reality?  This bike lane just happened to be picked. The attack could happen anywhere in New York, any street, any side walk… any place. The city would be packed with these British trains to protect pedestrians and bikes and paralyze the traffic. The city cannot just be silent, they had to do something. Luckily they could do something on this bike lane because of it’s unusual design… there is a bank and a planted border between the motor vehicle lanes and the bike route. Norma almost every sidewalk in New York has direct access to the road to allow drop off to the side walk, access to driveways, fire hydrants, and for deliveries and loading docks, and parking which is the basic assumption of urban design. That is why you never find low plants like in the image below.


side walk

Right: the Brooklyn Central Library, our proposal for a new canopy and fore garden for the theater entrance. Left: existing condition. Low plants between cars and pedestrians would give the entrance a welcoming focal point. This does not seem to happen here even though the sidewalk has this ample width. 右図はブルックリン中央図書館の劇場入り口の提案から。キャノピーと前庭のデザインを含む。左図は現状。これほど歩道が広いのだから右図のように車道との間に植栽帯を置きたかったのだけれど、NYではできないらしい。そうすれば入り口付近が際立って、「ようこそ!」の感じが出せたのだが…。


Here the planting and permanent barricades which would never allow cars to go into the bike lane. Installing British trains just at the openings  of the lane works very well. Speculatively the main purpose is to tranquilize and ease people’s psychology. After considering I guess that may be the practical function of this British train.

A few years ago in Tokyo bombs exploded that were hidden in garbage bins in public spaces. Immediately all of the garbage bins disappeared from public spaces. When the fear that this might happen again faded they all came back. There is no guarantee this will happen again, and I ( irresponsibly) hope these British trains will return home someday when the fear is gone.



NY Open House ニューヨークオープンハウス

Today I was stationed at the new sanitation garage in the east village for Open House New York. I have volunteered for several years for this event which is held every fall. Based on a model that was developed in London 25 years ago, Open House has spread to 35 countries and is a wonderful opportunity to see monuments, hard to get into spaces, architects studios or private homes. All types of buildings are opened up to the public for one weekend.


The tours were led by the architects of the building and the sanitation department- it turns out that the sanitation department was the one who wanted to join the event. This department deals with a much misunderstood part of our city life, the services they provide are invaluable but no one wants a sanitation garage in their neighborhood. They are trying to inform the public of how important their role is. This garage happens to be a pretty wonderful building, it is certified as LEED gold (Leading in Energy and Environmental Design), has fantastic views of the Hudson River for the workers, fits into the scale of the neighborhood with an intricate dynamic facade and also happens to houses garbage trucks.


Many people came to hear about the garbage; what happens to it and how do we deal with it.  But architects also came to check out the design of the building….. Why louvers? The building is mainly a huge truck garage but in fact looks like a museum.


A huge monument building made of concrete houses the salt storage. It is one of the most interesting parts- the salt is stored at just the right angle to have it tumble into the trucks, this wonderful mountain is very corrosive and many special precautions were needed.


There was a real fascination with the trucks and never before had the garbage men been the stars of an event.


Dag’s Cafe @Hammarskjold ハマーショルド公園のカフェ

P1060737c.jpgWe posted about the green market at Dag Hammarskjold Park  which is held every Wednesday. The park has many events and is the go to place for such activities as learning how to ride a bicycle, playing catch, enjoying a park bench or relaxing at the cafe. The Japan Society faces the park as shown in a photo below and one year they organized a Noh performance in the park. Quite often  protests are organized here because it is located close to the United Nations, it was the starting point of the New York City Women’s march.

前にダグハマーショルド公園で毎水曜に開かれる 青空市  の事をここに取り上げた。公園では自転車講習、子供たちの鬼ごっこ、カフェでのんびりなどなど、いろんなことに使われる。写真で分かるようにジャパンソサイアティーが面しているので、何年か前に創立を祝って、薪能の公演があった。前に載せた 反トランプのマーチもここが出発点だった。国連の斜向かいにあるので、抗議集会が頻繁に行われる。


Typically, though, the park is a lovely quiet oasis in midtown Manhattan. At the UN side a cafe provides a seating place for tourists and neighbors. The south side of the park is a garden dedicated  to Catherine Hepburn who lived in the neighborhood commemorating her commitment to the park.



The park is part of the city system but this garden is maintained by volunteers, Friends of Dag Hammarskjold (FDHP) . They do planting, weeding, maintaining the fences and anything else required. Today, chef Kenneth who manages the cafe “Dag’s Patio Cafe” generously cooked up an impromptu buffet of delicious green market dishes and the FDHP board members and garden volunteers were invited.  The summer feast was made entirely from fresh produce from the market. With white table cloth, and chilled wine our table was set under the trees and our chef brought out dish after dish of summer fare.

公園は市に維持管理されているけれど、庭園はボランティア、 「ダグ・ハマーショルドのフレンド達」によってメンテされている。彼らは植物の植え込み、草抜き、フェンスのメンテ、何でもする。今日、このカフェのシェフが気前よく即席のブッフェを企画して、青空市で売られる有機野菜を使った料理を「フレンド達」にふるまうことになった。涼しい木陰にテーブルが置かれ、白いテーブルクロスの上には冷えたワイン…。


The volunteers are a diverse group of neighbors who share a love of the park and are happy to have a bit of dirt that they can work with in New York City. They  became members because they love gardens and plants or want to meet people or are exited to do something for the public… but for sure no one expected this fiesta will be offered. Today’s guests are just a small portion of the Friends, but the chief had no idea how many would come, so served many, many dishes. Fantastic, delicious- we ate too much…

「フレンド」はこの近所に住むいろいろな人からなっている。メンバーになった動機は、土いじりが好き、植物が好き、いろんな人に会える、公共のために何かしたい…などなど。でもこのような御馳走でねぎらわれることは誰にも予想できなかった。今日ここにいる人々は「フレンド」の一部に過ぎず、シェフは何人来るか見当がつかなかったので、何十皿もの料理が用意されていた。素晴らしくおいしいのだが…何とも量が… 食べ過ぎた。

Falcon’s Manhattan Life 猛禽類のマンハッタン

Today’s weather was strange. It started with a very beautiful clear sky. I heard a bird singing an unfamiliar tune. I notice a falcon on the handrail. I moved my head slowly from a behind a mullion to have a better view of it. The bird also moved its head as if it wanted to have a better view of me. The motion was like the traditional style of Thai dance. We had eye contact. The distance was just 1 m apart behind the window glass. In order not to frighten it  I moved backward slowly, I had to go to work.


In the evening after I finished working, very quickly dark clouds started filling the sky. It was not like the typical thunder storm. When I got home I saw a soaked bird again sitting on the handrail. Is it the same one as in the morning? Pushing it’s tail outside of the handrail, it seemed like it was looking into the apartment as if it is interested in us. What if something happened? Can you fly off quickly?


The rain has stopped, but it does not go away.  It seems  to have moved up to the upper rail while I was not paying attention.


A friend, a bird watcher, said that a fairly large number of falcons live in New York City, a young falcon could be struggling on its maiden flight. They catch smaller birds and rats that inhabit the city…. a lot of animals live in Manhattan.



The sky has been dyed by sunset orange, 2 hours has passed already. It is still sitting there.


We turned off the lights to go to bed. It seemed to still be there in the dark.

Good night!



origami staircase オリガミ階段

We posted some information about a duplex apartment we designed where an opening was mode in the concrete slab and an origami bridge was inserted between the upper and lower floors. I wonder if it was too abstract? In this blog you can watch a video animation explaining the concept. Please take a look. An explanation follows after it.


“This staircase was conceptually inspired by paper folding art principles where a single strip forms the flight of risers. Simple serpentine folding of a metal sheet connects both floors. A thick and hard material like steel requires a totally different technology; cutting with a computer controlled laser cutter and special bending machine. These days,  “3D  printers”  have become a buzz word but a “3D steel printer” has not been invented yet. Instead of cutting out a long zigzag shape from industrial metal sheets and bending the strip 24 times, a more economical, energy saving and much more dimensionally accurate method was developed. First, a large standard sheet was folded just 4 times and after folding sliced “diagonally” into 6 identical modules then finally stacked. This procedure made precisely identical modules which would never have been achieved by bending the strips one by one. This accuracy was essential to accommodate the glass handrail which requires precise alignment.”


Insight into the nature of fabrication and the nature of the material developed and shaped the design. With these principles the design was realized —— reducing the cost, optimizing the use of material and maintaining the conceptual integrity of the design. Throughout this project the idea of “how to make” was a  part of the design,  the design itself  further clarifies how to it was made. Once the concept is created, it is not a matter of “bull dozing through to a solution” instead restrictions on materials and production contributed to inspire the concept … I think this is a good example.


City Greenery 町の緑 

Sometimes we are impressed by people’s respect for trees. These photos were taken on Park Avenue in New York City. Scaffolding like this is often seen in Manhattan to create a safe walkway for pedestrians during construction. There are often trees taller than the scaffolding which peak out above the roof but this is different. The branches are sticking out from the advertisement for this new construction.  The trees look like they are around 10 years old or so and the panel is arranged to wrap the branches so carefully.  It looks like an art piece. The simple feeling that they do not want to cut down a tree resulted to the creation of this “ art”. Is it witty, and nice?  This reminded me of IKEBANA or “ flower arranging ” where the flowers are supposed to be cut and stand artificially on KENZAN or hundreds of spikes to keep the flower straight. But these trees are all alive so in fact you cannot call it Ikebana.



On the contrary sometimes, we are shocked by how easily trees are cut down only because it is going to be an obstacle in the way. The photos below are taken when we were walking in front of Oji shrine (this is a different shrine from the Oji Inari Shrine we did a post for, but located nearby). Probably the age of this tree is more than 100 years, so the city could have registered it as a restoration tree. This reminds me of UNESCO’s world heritage cities. Many local bodies are applying to obtain this registration because they will have a totally different future than those that are not registered as world heritage sites . Registered trees will get people’s attention, for this tree though it does not matter if  it was registered or not.

反対に、邪魔になった木が、すっぱり切られるのを見つけてアッとなることがある。下の写真は東京の王子神社( 前に載せた王子稲荷神社とは全然別、でもすぐ近く ) の前を通り過ぎたときに、たまたま見かけて撮ったもの。樹齢は100年以上だろうか、これだけ大きなクスなのだから、区の保存樹とかなんとかに指定されていなかったのだろうか?世界遺産を思い出した。指定されると、されないでその遺産のある町の運命が決まるので、各地で指名獲得運動が盛んらしい。指定される前と後で、その大切さは、変わらないはずなのだが、指定されてないと全然気に留められることがない。


after  アフター


after !  アフター !


before !!  ビフォー !!

The photo above was taken a year ago when the tree was still alive. The neighborhood still had a relaxed atmosphere despite it being a major node at Oji Station and the city ward hall. Probably these woods of the shrine contributed to the atmosphere, not just that there is less traffic and building density. Using a small path from inside the shrine you can walk down to the promenade posted in this blog. You will see Oji station right there. Luckily this ginkgo tree seems to be registered.


Transform to Duplex メゾネットに変える


We have just finished a project to combine upper and lower floors of adjacent apartments using a void and staircase in an east midtown Manhattan apartment. The biggest challenge was the staircase which connects the two floors. We thought this might be a good application of ORIGAMI. The folds are 3 dimensional and turn back and forth to create the treads. This is quite different from the typical idea of folding to form of a staircase, where the steps and treads are all continuous to create a zigzag shape when viewed from the side. That is structurally rigid but there is no visibility through the staircase when you move up the stairs. Our design of a folded ribbon allows more transparency as you traverse the stair.

ニューヨークのミッドタウン、アパートの11階と12階をつなげてメゾネットにするプロジェクトを最近終えた。中でもチャレンジだったのは床を抜いた後につける階段のデザイン。何とかオリガミのようにしたいと思っていた。良く見かけるのはイナズマ型階段と呼ばれ、 踏板と蹴込板(登るときにつま先が当たりそうになる板)が繋がり、これが上から下まですべての段が繋がっていて、横から見るとイナズマが走っているような恰好をしている。でもこれはもう使い古された形で、面白くない。自分が上っているときは蹴込板に遮られて視界ゼロ、透明感がない。

Our idea was to bend a long strip of steel plate into zigzags that are in the opposite direction from the typical ones. As the result all the verticals are eliminated and it is very transparent. The continuous ribbon of steel is like the fabric streamers that gymnasts use. It is completely cantilevered from the wall so the support is a mystery. How to support the load? It will be up to the readers imagination. It is heavy steel.



Spatial continuity is everywhere, there are no partition walls. Frosted glass divides the bathroom from the bedroom, bringing abundant sunlight from the east windows. The staircase and void provide a continuous connection between the bedroom at the upper floor and the living space downstairs.


It used to be that New York families moved out to the suburbs when they expanded, but these days many families try to keep living in an urban setting. Their lifestyles are changing. This market requires multi-bedroom apartments that are very expensive. Re-selling concerns require architects to combine two adjoining apartments into one large apartment with more bedrooms. As a matter of the fact the owner of this apartment just wants to keep living here not because of accommodating family members, but because of the amazing view, the terrace and the location. This combination is not the adjacent apartment but the one above… very special.


Women’s March (an entire gender against Trump) 反トランプのマーチ


Today a march was organized by women against Trump’s policies. Many people gathered at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza to start the march. The UN is located nearby and it is the location for the start of many protests but also our local park where Japanese traditional Noh performances are held by the Japan Society a neighbor facing the park. But today it is quite different, the park is packed with people. Many pink hats and posters advocating feminine issues. We arrived just after 11:00 as we were told the march would start at noon, but very soon we were totally stuck, it was impossible to move, like in a fully packed subway car at peak of a really heavy rush-hour, but nobody is leaving the train. Tired and irritated people were getting into a bad mood, making nasty quarrels and needed to be reminded that we were all there for a great cause. It was a bit scary as there was a constant chorus of voices asking to let us start marching, but the police would not allow it.



The route started at the park, went south on 2nd Ave. turned west on 42nd and then headed north on Fifth to the Trump Tower. We found out later that so many people had filled 42nd street after arriving at Grand Central Station that the streets were are already packed. The front of the march had started a long time ago without us.



Every time a fire engine or the police passed there were huge cheers. So different from other protests- there was a sense that the everyone was supporting the same thing. 2nd Ave. was filled with people very far downstream. The avenue was getting narrower and narrower to limit the car traffic. We were standing for almost 2 hours, but no one started moving- so we decided to get out this crowd. All the streets beside the route were full of people.



When we managed to join the march again at 5th Ave, it is was a huge movement. We could not see the tail end. The empty lane in the street is for emergency vehicles and egress. The police warned me not to stop here when I tried to take this picture. No one is allowed to stop near the Trump tower. Everyone who passed had to keep going and then disperse- which they did very peacefully. It was around 4:00.

行進に合流すべく フィフスアベニューまで出てきたら、この状況。遥か先まで行進する人で埋まっている、行列の最尾がどこなのか見えない。一車線が空いているのは緊急車両と非難経路の確保のため。この写真を撮るために脚が止まっただけで警官に注意された。トランプタワーの近くでは立ち止まることが許されない。ここに到着した人は、そのまま行き過ぎて、逐次散会することになっている。我々がここに達したのは すでに4時ごろ。


After working at our office I came back across 5th Ave, on the way home in the dark. Surprisingly the march is still going on. It is after 6:00 and people are still joining next to next at the tail end of the march. So many people!! where did they come out?  I got a view of St. Patrick’s cathedral wonderfully lit, reminding me of when we had the Easter parade with our origami hats in front of it.

Mr. Trump missed this spectacle because he was staying in Washington. DC for the inauguration parties. It was one of the best uses of our public space-our streets- so many people wanted to make a statement.



City Trees 紅葉

They have raised the giant Christmas tree (doing to die) at Rockefeller Center. Every year a huge tree is cut down and carried here and then thrown away after the celebration. It is a waste. It is not against environmental ethics?  because it is a part of a rite in which sacrifice is allowed, why not? “the world” is an object to exploit values from! For strict Hindus, according to our staff, they are not allowed to kill vegetables by eating the roots.



I was very impressed with how New Yorker’s respect live trees in their city.  At interviews with potential owners applying to buy an apartment, they often say the reason why they want to move in is that there are many trees on the facing street. There may an idea that higher density of trees = higher end residential area.  A friend who loves greenery and landscape bought a house in a not very high end area and advocated planting trees on the street but his neighbors were not excited by the idea because they did not want to be bothered to clean up after the trees.



from the summer

There may be a correlation between density of trees in your neighborhood and your social standing. It seems that the more expensive residential areas have a higher density of trees. You see fewer trees in poorer areas in New York too. It does not depend on the size of the property. This theory is functionalistic but sometimes it does not explain everything. Sometimes it feels like pantheism exists here.

By the way this theory suggests that many people are too busy just surviving to improve their living environment or to worry about trees. That may be why all the trees in Japanese cities are miserably thinned by the city government like poor bonsai.




These pictures were taken near the south west corner of Central Park. At winter the leaves have all fallen and warm light reaches the ground. In the summer the leaves prevent the hot light from baking the ground and also provide diffuse light shading the sun. Probably the only negative thing is that you have to take care of the leaves that fall in autumn. We believe the easiest way to transform the street, make it beautiful and graceful is to plant trees. In these apartments they have a breath taking space filled with shining golden light filtered through the yellow leaves.



Is there a practical reason why tall trees are so disliked in Japanese cities? It is believed that the frequent typhoons fell big trees, although a gardener hired by the city of Tokyo said that the constant thinning prevents trees from growing strong roots which would anchor them. If that is so then both small trees and big trees often fall and it doesn’t make sense to trim the trees almost obsessively. The next theory is that they are trying to minimize the damage caused when a tree falls. This explanation seems to make sense to me, as it explains why cherry trees are the exception and never trimmed. Enjoying the yearly cherry blossoms is a ritual in which people are crazy for. They probably prefer to be sacrificed under a fallen cherry tree to giving up a cherry blossom party under its beautifully spreading canopy!


Grace Farm グレースファーム


A one hour train ride and another half hour drive by our friend brought us here to Grace Farm, designed by one of the most well-known architectural firms SANNA. The construction was recently completed.  It is located in the wooded country side after a scattering of large, expensive houses gradually disappears.  The building follows the terrain of the gentle hills accommodating a restaurant, library, gymnasium and auditorium under a sinuous roof shaped like  a stream. There are no solid walls except at the restrooms and support spaces such as machine rooms.  Their almost crazy idea of architecture in this natural setting was why they were selected as the architects.  Despite this grand gesture, the interior area is quite small. I am very curious how this unusual idea was accepted by the client.




The roof is extremely thin and the columns are extremely slim with the structure and drain system packed within the thin roof.  There is no bracing or diagonal members to work against the lateral forces and there are no roof top machines which normally take care of  the air conditioning. The building looks so simple, but in fact a huge effort was poured into it to achieve this simple impression. It is SAANA’s methodology to set a simple concept then the challenge is to solve the many technical obstacles that this creates since the typical strategies do not work; but this effort is not visible.

屋根は極限にまで薄く、柱は極限にまでに細い。構造体と雨の面倒見がこの薄い屋根の中に押し込まれてい る。雨水の面倒は全く見てないようにみえるが、ぎりぎりにまで目立たない、それでいて機能するように工夫されている。ちょっとしたアクロバットといってもいい。 機械類が屋根の上に載らないように、冷暖房は地下水と地熱が使われている。全体の印象はとてもシンプルで、一見何も特別なことはないように見えるけれど、その裏で、巨大な努力がはらわれている。大胆で単純なコンセプトを樹立して、それを実現するために問題となる技術的障害は何が何でも解決される、しかしその苦労は表には出てこない。この設計事務所の方法論が良く読み取れる。



The project was designed and built for a religions group, although everyone can come and enjoy the space. The construction was financed by donations from local people who were the founders of the church. One of the major elements that required funding was the curved glass. There are no areas of repetition which is a way you can save money, instead every part is custom made. On the contrary the finishes are not expensive high end materials. The combination of suppleness and lightness with the inexpensive finishes  reminds me of the typical house construction in Japan. The building is set within a natural environment, rain, wind, sun…and human use. How will this treatment of finishes age? Thinking about visiting here again in a few years we left this beautiful building.



Dezeen ディジーン掲載

Our project the Photographer’s Loft was published in Dezeen.  It is the most popular internet web site which publishes architectural and interior design work, currently probably the most influential site. Several of our projects were published  in the past and this time they selected the Photographer’s Loft  which this blog posted before. Right after Dezeen published this work several other internet publishers approached us. For example;

Thisispaper  with very sophisticated graphics.  グラフィックが素晴らしい。

Journal Du Design   a French publisher. フランスのインターーネット出版社。

私たちの仕事、「写真家のロフト」がディジーン Dezeen に掲載 された。ディジーンはインターーネット上で建築作品を出版するサイトで、世界中で一番ポピュラーなサイト。今や最も建築デザインに影響力があるかもしれない。私たちの作品も何回かこれまで掲載されたことがあるけれど、今回は「写真家のロフト」。以前このブログで受賞会を載せた作品。面白いことにディジーンで掲載されると即座に、上記の他のよく似た数社から引き合いが来た。


Before the internet age came, new architectural ideas were informed to a limited number of readers through a few hard copy magazines, but now each day they reach huge numbers of people, more people have more information.



When one of our projects was published in a hard copy paper magazine, they sent their own photographer and an architect to write the criticism of the building. Internet publishers  do not do this. They digitally copy photographs which are published by another publisher.  Many hard copy publishers do not dispatch photographers anymore but they do show drawings and documents such as plans and sections which help you to understand the space. That is a big difference. Internet publishers evaluate the project from several photographs. It is like your music composition is evaluated from just a phrase, and only that part is performed. It is as if your novel is evaluated from several excerpts and just that part is published.



But this analogy is not really accurate. That excerpt is still a but genuine part of your work in music or literature, not like architecture in which you cannot cut out some part from the real building and publish it.  Musical and literary excerpts are still a representation of the original work but can photographs be a representation of architecture? It may be said you see architecture through your eyes but also with your back, I mean you feel the space. Though after seeing the real building we say “Oh the photographs are better than the real building”…..quite often.



We go and visit real buildings, but some day we may stop doing so. Everyday new works are published and it goes into the archive the next day. Web sites are updated every few minutes, and it is all about the impression of the moment. People no longer care if the image is from the real thing or if it is a super realistic rendering. There is no way to distinguish between the movie set and the real space—-the image no longer needs to a representation of the real space — this is a different art form fro architecture.



In fact current technology has the ability to create images which you cannot tell if they are “real” or not. There is no developed architectural space, but instead a cool image. The images do not even have to be consistent. Being cool is everything, catching your attention-it is the culture of internet.



Manhattan Outdoor Life 緑のテラス


We have a project which is under construction in Midtown Manhattan located near the top floor of the building that has a 180 degree panorama. The client loves this view and decided to keep it but make his apartment larger by making it into a duplex instead of moving somewhere else. He waited until the apartment above was for sale and available to buy.  A big opening was made in the concrete floor and a new stair case will be inserted to connect the two floors. From his apartment you can see the woods  of the United Nations grounds, the East River, Roosevelt Island and Long Island. It is understandable why he wants to keep living here.




In a previous post we wrote that many people enjoy outdoor life on their roofs. The photos that we showed were all looking up from the street, but now we can see the terraces at the same level. For his close view you see so many roof terraces with many plants.  The neighborhood is almost all residential even in this commercial area. The old zoning regulated the height of the buildings and dictated their shape which required set backs to allow light into the streets, ending up with a lot of setbacks. Terraces were a lucky byproduct of that setback.



The current zoning regulations  no longer  lead to this. Mid Manhattan is getting taller and taller, filled with straight-up extruded high-rises. Terraces are disappearing and roof tops are no longer habitable instead filled with tons of air-conditioning machines. Someday in the future this area may be packed with super high-rises and setback terraces with trees may extinct; they were a by product.  Now almost every street is narrowed by on going construction of high-rises, creating traffic congestion.

かつては意図せずともそうなっていたものが、現在、新しい規制になってからは生まれづらくなっている。ミッドマンハッタンはますます筒状の超高層になって いる。段状のテラスは姿がなくなり、屋上も、もう人の行ける場所ではなくなりつつある。空調の機械で占領されつつある。いつかこの地域は超高層ビルでギシ ギシに充填されて、このような副産物で生まれた緑化されたテラスはどこにも見られなくなるかもしれない。その未来に向けて、ミッドマンハッタンはどの通りも超高層ビルの建設で活気ついている。工事現場の前の車線が半分になり、交通渋滞が至る所。



We found a building which has a big trees downtown where we have another project. They  look to be more than 10m tall when you compare them with the steel handrails which are around 1 m high. The trunks seems to be 30 cm in diameter. How did they grow there? The pots must be huge and heavy. How can the roof structure hold it?  How strong is the wind pressure on the trees at this height? How are they prevented from falling?….. It is beyond our imagination.



at OrigamiUSA オリガミUSAにて


our table-all from one sheet. 私たちのテーブル、どれも一枚の紙から。

One day out of the blue we got a call inviting us to an origami convention. We have no idea how did they found out we are interested in origami. We thought this would be a good opportunity to discuss our ideas about origami. Instead of just attending the conference we proposed that I could give a lecture and that we also wanted to present our origami works at their exhibition. After sending some images of our work we were quickly approved  and luckily the conference was being held in New York this year. We selected some works to take and prepared images of the pieces that were too big to bring to the conference. We completely packed our friend’s car with our origami and headed to the conference.



Transportation of this chair was the most difficult part. Why didn’t we collapse it? which is the nature of origami!! too late. この椅子を運び込むまでが難事業、折りたためばよかった!

Origami USA is the largest origami organization in USA with many origami lovers. This year approximately 800 people attended the 3.5 day conference.  There are lectures like the one I did and classes on how to make a particular origami object and many gatherings of origami folders. There is no hierarchy between lecturer and  audience; lecturers become the students in other classes and there are many different age groups.



from a sheet of paper!  by Tomoko Fuse R-40cm, 一枚の紙から!布施知子さんの作品 半径40cm

The exhibition highlights many origami works. There are all kinds of origami from simple cranes to unbelievably complicated animals, insects and abstract objects. Some are newly invented by researchers based on mathematics.  Anything seems OK if it is similar to Origami. Even mizuhiki or Japanese ornamental knot works were exhibited, which are beautiful but not folded at all.  (The mathematical link between knots and origami  may be discovered someday.) The organization covers so many concerns but is not split into specialized  sections. The researchers also exhibited some of their insect and bird works.  They simply love origami. Creative origami work attracts people’s attention but they do not stick on the originality. They do not mind if they find that someone has already  created the very same design before them. It is all right as long as you enjoy it. No one has a superior attitude to those who have newly joined and beginners.  Does the organization have this philosophy? or does origami itself possess it?  I was given 45minuutes  for my lecture on Monday the last day. After long  lecture, many people came to talk to me. I hope my lecture gave them some inspiration.

展示会場には、さまざまな作品が五万と展示されていた。ツルのような簡単なものから、信じられないほどの複雑な動物や昆虫の大群、そして抽象的なオブジェ まである。数学に裏打ちされた研究者による新作もある。オリガミならなんでもあり。オリガミとは直接関係のない、ミズヒキの展示や講義さえもある。(将来、組み紐とオリガミの数学的な関連が発見されるかもしれない。)参加者の層や関心ごとが多岐にわたっているのに、それぞれに分化していない。研究者も昆虫や鳥を折っている。彼らは本当にオリガミが好きななんだなと感じ入った。創造性のある作品は、注目されるけれど、みんなオ リジナリティに固執していない。独自作品とよく似ているのが過去に作られていたことが分かっても気にしな い。楽しければいい。だから、先輩面した人が一切いない。これはこの組織の特性なのだろうか?確実に言えそうなのは、これがオリガミの持つ大きな特典だということ だろう。講演にもらったコマは45分。長い講演を終えると、たくさんの人が話掛けてきた。新しいインスピレーションが生まれればとおもう。


from a sheet of paper! designed by Robert Lang. 一枚の紙から!ロバート・ラングの設計

The organization takes care of everything from organizing the space and amenities to registration of attendance at lectures and classes . This huge work is maintained by volunteers. We were supposed to volunteer one hour during the conference. But I forgot about it-it was our first convention and we were unfamiliar with everything. I talked to one of organizers who helped us set up the exhibition.  She said ” no problem! as long as you enjoyed”

組織は会場のセッティングや参加者の登録、手続き、窓口事務、などなど、参加者の便宜を図って支援をしている。これら膨大な仕事はすべてボランティアで維持されていて、講演者や展示者も、会期中に1時間のボランティアをすることになっている。ところが、初めての参加なので何が何だかわからず、アタフタしているうちに忘れていた。面倒を見てくれた担当者(当然、ボランティア)にその旨を伝えたら、曰く、「気にすることはないのよ、楽しかったら、それでいいのよ!」 アメリカだなあと思った。


hundreds of folded units are combined to form a ball. オリガミのユニットをたくさん組み合わせて、球にしてある